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Improvements in accurate design data migration

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The thought of losing libraries full of schematic symbols, PCB footprints, and design data is a painful one.

The fact is, at some point, almost all companies need to move design data from one EDA toolset to another. Not surprisingly, however, the move to another design solution is frequently put off by the fear of leaving existing designs behind and having to rebuild libraries and designs from scratch.

The problem

Large companies typically spend one third of their design group’s time creating and managing libraries.

For example, schematic symbols typically contain timing, power and other performance-modelling attributes. Symbol attributes also include part number, manufacturer, cost data and more. The creation and maintenance of physical packaging information is also a time-consuming investment of resources. The situation is compounded as libraries grow in size, becoming an increasingly significant asset in the process. This investment of time and effort means:

• Companies want to maintain libraries that have already been developed.

• There is a barrier against moving to competitive toolsets, regardless of whether they could help resolve compelling design problems.

Translation as a solution

Translation of schematic and PCB design data is essential as companies evolve their EDA toolsets to deal with company acquisitions, problems encountered with existing tools and changing needs. But efficient conversion of design data is not enough. Translators also must be reliable and thorough, capable of converting library and design database information accurately and consistently. If a translator is only 70 percent accurate, for example, it means someone must manually find and fix the remaining 30 percent of the data. (Figure 1 shows translation defects that must be fixed by hand.)

To maintain data integrity, a good translator must account for the following design elements:

• Binary and/or ASCII formats

• Graphical elements such as arcs, filled polygons, and other odd shapes

• Intelligent netlist and connectivity information

• Textual fields such as ref des and part labels

• Font conversion

• Padstack size and positioning information

• Rounding-off of measurement units.

How are EDA companies helping?

The development of accurate, reliable EDA translators is no trivial undertaking and is typically possessed only by companies that develop and own the destination software code.

These days, EDA vendors (such as Mentor Graphics, distributed by In-Circuit Design ) are making migration easier by providing translators to convert legacy data.

With a solid data-conversion tool in hand, engineers and designers can:

• Ensure design data integrity

• Bring in data to meet tight project schedules on current projects

• Leverage existing designs and data in future designs

• Save time and money by eliminating the need to recreate parts to work on multiple vendor tools

• Safely investigate powerful replacement tools for their PCB design flow without risking the loss of valuable schematic symbols, libraries and PCB footprints.

Companies also benefit. With a good translator, these companies can:

• Easily convert data from one vendor platform to another

• Eliminate the need to redraw symbols from scratch

• Provide product documentation customised to the customer’s standards with appropriate title blocks, company logos, etc.

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